Football: FIFA seeks accord on 2022 World Cup dates

DOHA - A FIFA task force meets in Qatar this week to try to set dates for the 2022 World Cup - with a groundbreaking but highly controversial winter tournament likely.

Officials from football's global governing body, top leagues and players' representatives will meet in the Gulf state on Tuesday to try to seek agreement.

A November-December tournament is considered favourite. But the task force will make a recommendation to FIFA whose executive committee will decide on March 19-20 in Zurich.

While concerns about Qatar's baking summer temperatures caused the calls for a change, the meeting comes as the Gulf state suffers some of its worst weather for months with cold winds and sandstorms.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said last month that the 2022 World Cup "will not be in June or July".

But the dates are still disputed, especially by Europe's powerful leagues.

If the World Cup is to be played in November, players and fans would enjoy temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), similar to conditions played in recent World Cups.

But an alternative date will be offered on Tuesday by the European Club Association, which represents the continent's major teams such as Real Madrid and Manchester United. It wants the tournament played in May and June 2022, so that the multi-billion dollar domestic leagues and Champions League trophy are not disturbed.

The clubs are likely to be unsuccessful as European football's governing body, UEFA, has already accepted a switch to winter.

Winter dates clash

The final decision must also seek to avoid a clash with the International Olympic Committee as the 2022 Winter Olympics will be in January or February.

IOC leader Thomas Bach says "signals" sent by FIFA indicate the two events will not be held at the same time.

Qatar has a double interest as it has said it would like to host the Summer Olympics in the near future, making it more likely no one in the Gulf will want to annoy the IOC.

Outside the Olympics, a tournament in November and December would clash with the NFL and NBA seasons in the United States.

And there is also the question of broadcasters who bid for the 2022 tournament on the basis it would be held in a northern hemisphere summer, but will now have to change their schedules.

Sitting somewhat in the sidelines on Tuesday will be Qatar's World Cup committee.

Officials say they will attend the meeting on an observer basis only. The tiny Gulf state has said it is happy to host the World Cup on whichever date FIFA finally chooses.

Qatar, which is developing air cooling technology to help players and fans if there is a summer tournament, wants no more controversy after the corruption allegations hurled at its bid.

Once a date is set there will, no doubt, be further questions asked about the original controversial selection of Qatar to host the World Cup, given the enormous upheaval imposed by moving the tournament to another part of the calendar.

The dates recommended by the task force could kickstart the beginning of a potentially messy compensation process.

Europe's top clubs have said they will want reimbursing for the disruption to their core business, the domestic leagues.

And one of the most powerful voices from one of Europe's biggest clubs, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Bayern Munich, has already warned that clubs "are not ready to pay".